Questions is a collaboration by Lucy Kempton and Joe Hyam. Poems are based on questions drawn from an agreed starting question and formed by answers, which contain and inspire the next questions. In response to Lucy's first question, Joe kicks off. This follows our earlier work in Compasses, archived here, where Lucy's photographs illustrate Joe's series of 50 sonnets under the title Handbook for Explorers.

Saturday, 23 April 2011

What are the things which you wish that you knew?

As swallows try to catch them in nets of air,
Answers are harder than questions to find.
And so, inspired by yours, here's mine, my dear,
Honest as may be and returned in kind.

A cat named Curiosity  stalks in my  care
But it's clear the animal's designed
To hunt with eye and claw, whatever's there
And overwhelm with trophies an overburdened mind.

With so much data stacked up everywhere,
Rather than know more, I'd like to understand
The complexities which figure
In the cries and shadows of a troubled land.

Those who look for truth must learn to care
For crops trodden  down by rain and wind,
Burnt in hatred and ill will; and come to fear
What threatens to destroy them in the end.

It's not so much the structure of a star
Or particle or gene, but what lies beyond
The turbulence that swirls about us, near and far
And neither head nor heart can comprehend.

So my question curls up and settles where
You stand, your camera and eye aligned:
What's your choice? The swallows' game of dare?
Or bobbing kite tugged by a fretful wind?

Friday, 8 April 2011

What promises have you to give? Or give up on? Or break?

Promises, promises. So that's what you're after
I've heard far too many and kept far too few,
forgotten, forgiven, in tears or in laughter,
it's highly unlikely I'll make any new.

The world is too fleeting and formless to count on,
the same goes for me, and I dare say for you,
oak turns into acorn and molehill to mountain,
things can turn upside-down, quite out of the blue.

The river we step in is never the same one
whether we paddle or try to swim through,
so what is the self that arrived with my name on?
Cells change and replace themselves, minds will do too.

Yet sometimes to stay put is what we require,
and loyalty and patience are powerful glue,
to hold us fast here in the warmth of the fire
our backs to the window, enjoying the view.

So here I am still trying to answer your query
without being pompous, or dour, or untrue,
or to clothe it in fake metaphysical theory,
if doggerel's what comes it'll just have to do.

So if you're still contented with fireside gazing 
I'll toss you another loose line to pursue
(though spring's at the door and there's no time for lazing):
What are the things which you wish that you knew?